One of the periodicals to which I subscribe recently featured the theme of ‘friendship,’ making me think about this in my life. I have friends whom I see only periodically, but when we meet up it’s like carrying on from the last time because we feel so comfortable with each other. We hold each other in high priority and guard each other’s welfare.
As President, I am the face of CMIC, making the concept of friendship more relevant but still metaphorical, since I’m representing an organization. I meet folks at preaching weekends, presentations at meetings, and through phone calls and personal correspondence. I’ve met donors in the strangest places – most notably on cruise ships where I act as chaplain. “Say aren’t you the guy in the magazine. Hey Charlie/Margaret it’s the Father from Catholic Missions.” On preaching weekends while handing out our Magazine I’ll hear, “no thanks Father, I already get it in the mail.”
Perhaps what I’m writing about is familiarity and mutuality, rather than friendship. Familiarity assumes a sense of friendliness. When I interact with donors, there is a connection that breaks through social barriers.
Donors expect me to be pleasant, welcoming and responsive, both as a priest and as a representative of CMIC. Being introverted, I’m not always sure that comes through, so I try to engage in conversation. It’s a challenge in my life. In being human, contact is necessarily a spiritual connection, so often I’ll ask a blessing upon the person(s) or promise prayers. My Roman collar gets me into many places but it can also put up walls. The collar signals trust for some individuals and suspicion for others. Fortunately, it’s usually the former that I encounter.
Mutuality implies something held in common, which is often philanthropy or an interest in mission work. While CMIC is a charitable corporation, my staff make it work. We all want the same thing, as summed up in CMIC’s mission statement: To keep the Catholic Faith in remote and poor mission communities across Canada. It’s something we share in a common cause which our Catholic Faith tells us is good. What better thing can you do than support Jesus’ commissioning of the Apostles to “go forth and proclaim the Gospel?”
The COVID experience has challenged our understanding of friendship. There are some relationships that haven’t lasted or have been bruised. The experience made many of us rethink the nature of our relationships. During this difficult time, CMIC has tried to stay in touch with donors by communicating concern through the appeal letters that accompanied our publications. Each day we pray the Morning Office as a staff and I am offering Masses for our donors and their concerns.
God bless you all.